Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has advocated for the amendment of the present income tax law so as to exclude the new minimum wage of N30,000 from taxation .
This is coming as the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba was Wednesday re-elected for a second term.
In a motion submitted by the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) at the plenary session of the 12th delegates’ conference of the NLC in Abuja, the union noted that there was a “twin assault on the real income of Nigerian workers caused by unrestrained devaluation of naira and high rate of inflation”.
The union also expressed the concern that the process for the new minimum wage was taking too long.
It urged the parent body, NLC, to discuss strategies and plans for effective implementation of the new minimum wage particularly at the state level.
The General Secretary of NUTGTWN, Issa Aremu, noted that it was important to put pressure on the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to raise the tax bar in such a way that N30,000 minimum wage would fall below taxable income.
He also called for tax holidays for some categories of Nigerian workers.
He said, “Now that we have raised the minimum wage to N30,000, we must impress it on the FIRS to raise tax bar so that the new minimum wage will be protected. If you tax minimum wage of N30,000, we may as well go back to N25,000 or N27,000 by default. The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives raised the point and I think labour must push the agenda to protect the new minimum wage.
“The N30,000 is actually a compromised amount from N56,000 earlier proposed so it must be protected. If the federal government can give 10-year tax holiday to companies, why not give the same to workers? Given the collapse of income, today, Nigerian workers deserve tax holidays. We are not asking for this because we consider our job as charitable, what workers have in their pocket is what will turn the economy around. That is what we will use to purchase goods in the market and pay rent. For economic recovery, it is good for workers to have sustainable purchasing power or disposable income that is off the tax hook.”
On his part, the General Secretary of NLC, Peter Ozo-Eson, said the income tax law needed to be amended to protect workers purchasing power.
Ozo-Eson said, “given that the N30,000 we agreed as a compromised minimum wage is so low, ideally, it should not be taxed but I believe that the correct way to do it is to amend the income tax law in order to raise the exemption bar if the N30,000 will fall within.
“The law should be amended to ensure that the minimum wage level is below the taxable income. Under the present law, if you earn N18,000 a month, your tax is zero. There is a tax table but with N30,000, under the existing exemption guideline, there will be some little tax because it will be slightly above the exemption tax. What needs to be done is to have an adjustment to the schedule so that the exemption is placed above the minimum wage,”he said.
Meanwhile, Wabba was Wednesday re-elected as NLC president for a second term.
Wabba, who was returned to office unopposed at the 12th delegates’ conference of the NLC in Abuja is also the president of the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC).
In his acceptance speech, Wabba pledged to redouble his efforts in protecting the interest and rights of the Nigerian workers.
He also said it was important to address the global inbalance where more people live below poverty line despite the growing global wealth.
“The board will respect the will of members and consolidate on what we are doing. We will continue to conform to the tradition of the union and speak the truth to those in power. The daily challenges of workers at work place will be confronted.
“We have been able to work assiduously in the past four years and we will move forward to build workers poser. I assure our members of our commitment and dedication to the resolutions of the conference,” he said.
The NLC president called on the political class to imitate the rancour-free election of the NLC.
Among those returned are First Deputy President, Amaechi Asuguni; Second Deputy President, Muhammed Idris; and Third Deputy President, Najim Yasim.
Other newly-elected officers are: National Treasurer, Ibrahim Khalil; First Vice president, Abdulrafiu Adeniji; Second Vice president, Peter Adeyemi; Third Vice President, Lawrence Amaechi; Fourth Vice president, Oyelekan Lateef, Fifth Vice President, Mercy Okezie and National Trustee, Adewale Adeyanju.
Also elected are financial secretary, Mustapha Adamu; First Internal Auditor, Simon Ankavar; Second Internal Auditor, Benjamin Anthony; Third Internal Auditor, Olatunji Babatunde; First Ex-officio member, Funmilayo Issa; and second ex-officio member, Comfort Okoh.